The Constitution Unit


Elections and Referendums Archive

sepia voting 1400x380

The Constitution Unit has in the past conducted important research that has shaped the rules and institutions that regulate elections and referendums in the UK and influenced wider electoral reform debates. Click here for access to that research.

Electoral Systems and Structures in the UK

The Independent Commission on Proportional Representation conducted a detailed study in 2002-3 into the impact of the new voting systems that had been introduced for the devolved assemblies.  Its final report was published in April 2003.  It built in part on earlier Constitution Unit work on the same theme.

The Unit's early report Establishing an Electoral Commission was important in developing proposals for this new body.

Other early studies examined the regional list system adopted for elections to the European Parliament and the information that should be given to voters about new electoral systems.

Women's Representation in Politics

The Women's Representation in Politics project, led by Meg Russell, analysed means of overcoming the underrepresentation of women at Westminster and was crucial in laying the groundwork for the continuing use of all-women shortlists by UK political parties.


This research focused on the best legal and administrative framework for the conduct of referendums.  This work was conducted within the framework of the Commission on the Conduct of Referendums, which reported in November 1996.  The Commission's findings as they related to the referendum that was then expected on electoral reform were summarized in a briefing the following year, and this work was subsequently amplified in a report on the conduct of the expected electoral and Lords reform referendums.

During the Brexit debate, there were some calls for a second referendum on the matter. While taking no position on the issue, the Constitution Unit conducted research into the mechanics of how this might work, resulting in two reports: The Mechanics of a Further Referendum on Brexit in 2018, and The Mechanics of a Further Referendum on Brexit Revisited: Questions for the New Parliament in the run up to the the general election in 2019.